Footballing entertainment has been scarce in such unprecedented circumstances, so the addition of the Diego Maradona film to All 4 was timely to say the least.
In a nutshell, this is an uplifting watch about how Diego Armando Maradona fulfilled his potential, restored the pride of Neapolitans, and lead his country to World Cup glory.
The documentary, which was written and directed by British filmmaker Asif Kapadia, encapsulates Maradona’s rise and eventual fall, but predominantly charts the juncture of his career spent at SSC Napoli.
Appropriately, the story begins in Barcelona, where it was expected that he’d become a club great, having arrived for a then world record fee of £5 million.
However, although his outrageous talent was there for all to see, viewers immediately begin to understand an imperfection of his character and consequently, why his time in Catalonia was brief; a fractious relationship with club executives, fighting on the pitch and two seasons somewhat disrupted by injuries all combined to persuade Barça to auction off their Argentine asset.
So, the question was, which side among Europe’s elite would take a gamble on him? None of them is the answer, and this prompted an Italian outcast to enter the fray – Napoli.
At this stage, the significance of his move to Naples in an Italian context is conveyed very effectively:
Neapolitans felt that they had been neglected during the aftermath of the World Wars, and this was reflected by the socio-economic chasm between the North and South of Italy and the hostility towards the North from the South, and vice versa.
Despite Naples boasting an idyllic setting, it lacked the amenities to match meaning that unemployment and organised crime was rife; its inhabitants didn’t have much, yet they’d still flock to the San Paolo every matchday to support their beloved Napoli.
This was such a pivotal narrative throughout the documentary because it portrayed Maradona as the city’s salvation, and a ‘demigod’ to those who worshipped him.
During his time at Napoli, his presence reinvigorated an underachieving team to a formidable outfit that secured the club’s first ever Serie A title in 1987 with the Coppa Italia to boot, and another Serie A crown two seasons later.
Maradona helped Naples rediscover its soul, and not only was this his success, but it was a triumph for the whole of Southern Italy too.
He also had a strong sense of patriotism which elevated his game when representing Argentina, and his performances for his country, especially at the 1986 World Cup inspired and united a nation.
This was brilliantly exemplified in the 1986 World Cup segment, when an Argentinian commentator exclaimed the now iconic words of “Thank you God, for football, for Maradona” following his remarkable solo goal vs England.
One of the film’s key themes was the two personalities of Diego Maradona: Diego, and Maradona.
Diego’s the boy from humble beginnings who plays with the motivation of providing for his family, and Maradona, by contrast, is the irresponsible man whose actions tarnish his reputation.
By simply depicting the essence of the two sides to “El Pibe de Oro”, the documentary flows seamlessly from one point in time to another, and demonstrates how Maradona ultimately usurps Diego.